As a parent, you’re aware that screen exposure may be harmful to your child. But do you know how much screen time is too much for him/her?
In this article, we’ve curated facts and statistics from top case studies to answer that question, including the following:
- How much screen time do children spend on average?
- Which activity dominates their screen time?
- Which device is used by most of them?
- What benefits do they get from screen time?
- What potential risks does too much of it cause them?
- How can you as a parent limit your child’s screen time?
How Much Screen Time Do Children Spend on Average?
1) American children aged 0 to 8 years spend about 1.5 to 4.6 hours of daily screen time.
- 29% of American babies under the age of 1 watch television for about 90 minutes (1.5 hours).
- 64% of American babies between ages 1 and 2 watch television for more than 2 hours.
- American children between ages 2 and 5 spend 2.2 to 4.6 hours a day with screen media.
- Children aged 7 to 8 years in New York spend only 1.5 hours a day on the screen because they’re busy with their school activities.
2) Children aged 8 to 12 years spend 4 to 9 hours of daily screen time.
- Kids aged 8 to 12 years in the United States spend 4 to 6 hours of daily screen time.
- Children aged 8 years and up in different countries consume 4.5 hours watching television and 7.5 hours using other screened gadgets for entertainment.
- Children aged 10 years and up in different countries spend up to 9 hours a day in front of the screen.
3) Children’s daily screen time increased up to more than 7 hours during the pandemic.
- From 3.8 hours a day before the pandemic, 12-year-old children in the United States doubled their nonschool-related screen time to 7.7 hours a day in May 2020.
- From less than an hour a day during the early stage of the pandemic in 2019, majority of kids in different countries began spending 1 to 3 hours (or even more) of screen time to play games in 2020.
4) The pandemic also saw an increase in the number of children who spend 4 hours or more of daily screen time.
- From 13% before the pandemic, the percentage of children aged 0 to 4 years, who spend more than 4 hours of daily screen time, went up to 26% during the pandemic.
- From 17% before the pandemic, the percentage of children aged 5 to 10 years, who spend the same amount of daily screen time, climbed up to 44% during the pandemic.
- From 23% before the pandemic, the percentage of children aged 11 to 13 years, who spend the same amount of daily screen time, reached 47% during the pandemic.
- From 20% before the pandemic, the percentage of children who stream videos for 4 hours a day or more spiked up to 40% in May 2020.
- From 3.8 hours a day before the pandemic, 12-year-old children in the United States doubled their nonschool-related screen time to 7.7 hours a day in May 2020.
5) In the United States, 18.6 hours of screen-based play dominates children’s weekly activities.
- Ranking next are the following:
- 14.6 hours of screen-free indoor play
- 10.6 hours of screen-free outdoor play
- 9.6 hours of screen-free activities with parents and other adults
- 5.3 hours of screen-free sports and other activities
- 2.7 hours of screen-free homework
Which Activity Dominates Children’s Screen Time?
1) On a daily screen time of 4 to 9 hours, television watching dominates children’s activities.
Source: High Speed Internet
- 39% to 53% of those hours are spent watching television.
- 22% to 33% goes to gaming.
- 11% to 24% is used on browsing websites and social media.
- 6% to 9% is consumed on content creation, video chat, and e-reading.
2) On a weekly basis, television watching still dominates children’s screen time.
Source: Internet Matters
- 96% of them watch television for 15 hours.
- 40% play games on a screen for 6 hours.
- 53% do various online activities for 8 hours.
- 48% watch YouTube videos for an unidentified amount of time.
Which Device is Used by Most Children During Their Screen Time?
1) Surveyed parents in the United States confirm that television is the device used by most children aged 0 to 2 years.
Source: Pew Research Center
- 74% of them use television.
- 49% use smartphone.
- 35% use tablet computer.
- 12% use desktop or laptop computer.
- 9% use a gaming device.
2) Television is also what most children aged 3 to 4 years use.
- 90% of them use television.
- 64% use tablet computer.
- 62% use smartphone.
- 25% use a gaming device.
- 21% use desktop or laptop computer.
3) The case is similar to that of most children aged 5 to 8 years.
- 93% of them use television.
- 81% use tablet computer.
- 59% use smartphone.
- 58% use a gaming device.
- 54% use desktop or laptop computer.
4) The case is similar to that of most children aged 9 to 11 years as well.
- 91% of them use television.
- 78% use tablet computer.
- 73% use desktop or laptop computer.
- 68% use a gaming device.
- 67% use smartphone.
What Benefits Do Children Get From Spending Time on Their Screened Gadgets?
1) Touchscreen gadgets enhance learning.
- 88% of the surveyed children in countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agree that the Internet is a great source of information obtained through computers, mobile phones, among other screened gadgets.
- 30% to 53% of early adolescents in the United States claim that they learn new things during their screen time as they browse the Internet, play games, and so on.
- 29% of parents with children aged 0 to 4 years in the United States say their kids spend time on the screen to get information from the Internet. The case is similar to that of 78% of parents who have 5- to 11-year-old kids.
- With 40% of children aged 8 years and younger in the United States owning tablets at home, Rosie Flewitt, a professor of Early Childhood Communication, concludes that touchscreens help children who struggle learning from books.
- Over 1,000 parents with children aged 3 to 5 years, along with their teachers, support the idea that tablets promote learning. Children enjoy reading more if books are supplemented with touchscreen gadgets compared to doing it with just books.
2) Screened gadgets make online study and transactions possible.
- 24.48% of the surveyed young students in Bangladesh used electronic gadgets to attend online classes due to the ongoing pandemic.
- According to 40% of the surveyed parents with children aged 11 years and below in the United States, kids spend time on the screen to do their homework.
- 47% of children also use their screened gadgets to make online petitions.
- They also do online shopping and other things related to e-commerce, making up 11.25% of the total Internet time reported by Kaspersky Safe Kids.
3) Screen time allows for communication and interaction with other people through social media.
- 84% to 85% of the surveyed US adults say their children use their screened devices to contact their parents when they are not with them.
- 37% to 47% of early teens in the US use mobile phones to connect with their family members, friends, and other people.
- 47% of children use their screened gadgets to support their friends by liking, sharing, and/or commenting on their posts.
- 73% of the surveyed children in OECD countries participate in social networks daily.
- 61% of them chat online everyday.
- Using communication media makes up 24.16% of children’s total Internet time, as per Kaspersky Safe Kids alerts.
4) Screen time provides some entertainment.
- 59% of the surveyed US adults say their children spend time on the screen for entertainment.
- 34% to 57% of the surveyed early teens in the US use their mobile phones simply to pass time browsing the Internet, checking their social media, playing games, and so on.
- Playing music, hearing jokes, and playing games are what children aged 0 to 4 years do during their screen time, according to 16% to 79% of the surveyed US parents.
- The same is true with 5- to 11-year-old children, as per 34% to 83% of the surveyed parents.
- Playing games consume 15.98% of children’s total Internet time, according to a report by Kaspersky Safe Kids.
What Potential Risks Does Too Much Screen Time Have on Kids?
1) Screen time and exposure are responsible for some of children’s vision problems.
- Parents claim that 49% of children’s vision and eye health problems have something to do with the amount of time their kids spend on the screen daily.
- 40% of these are determined by their distance from the screen.
- 37% are caused by blue light from the screen.
2) With too much screen time, less than half of children maintain at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
- Among 4- to 11-year-old American children surveyed, 65% have high levels of screen time and 37% have low levels of active play.
- Among 6- to 11-year-old American children surveyed, less than 40% meet the ideal amount of physical activity and screen time.
- Only 195 (19.5%) of 1,000 children maintain 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
3) With at least an hour of daily screen time but less physical activity, children aged 2 years and above are at risk of overweight and obesity.
- Australian preschool children aged 2 to 6 years who spend more hours watching television and less time on physical activities have significantly higher body mass index (BMI).
- Children who spend 1 hour watching television a day are 50% more likely to become overweight than those who watch less.
- Among children aged 6 years and above, those with less physical activity and more screen time and exposure are twice likely to be overweight.
- Among 3rd to 5th grade Iowa school children, those who are overweight and obese use significantly more screen time than those with normal weight.
4) More than 3 hours of screen time is linked to developing type 2 diabetes.
- Compared to children who spend 1 hour or less of daily screen time, those who spend more than 3 hours are likely to show signs of insulin resistance, contributing to the development of type 2 diabetes.
- 2- to 4-year-old children consume 167 more calories for every hour of television viewing a day.
5) Screen time is also associated with sleep disorder and deficiency among children aged 12 years and below.
- For children under the age of 3, screen time is linked to irregular sleep patterns.
- For those aged 6 to 12 years, screen time is otherwise linked to sleep disturbance.
- 90% of the studies linking screen time and sleep difficulty among children attribute the problem to screen addiction which results in later bedtime and less time spent sleeping.
6) 1 to over 5 hours of screen time manifests behavioral problems among nearly half of children.
- Children who watch television and play games on computers and mobile devices for more than 2 hours a day develop more behavioral problems (e.g. anxiety and depression) compared to those who do less than 20 minutes.
- Among 1,000 children studied, 143 (14.3%) are diagnosed with or under evaluation for anxiety, 110 (11%) for depression, 160 (16%) for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and 116 (11.6%) for an unidentified behavioral problem.
- Children aged 5 years and below who spend 2 or more hours of daily screen time are 8 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
- For every hour of daily screen time, children aged 3 years and below develop a 10% risk of attention problems when they enter school.
- Children who spend 5 or more hours of daily screen time are 71% more likely to manifest suicide risk factors.
- The same is true with 29% of those who use their devices for just an hour a day.
- Among children who use screened devices for more than 5 hours a day, 48% report at least one suicide-related outcome.
7) At least 30 minutes of daily screen time develops a risk of language acquisition and communication delays.
- For every 30 minutes spent watching television, children develop 50% higher risk of delay in language acquisition.
- 6.6% of parents say that toddlers who use mobile devices daily are more likely to suffer from speech delay.
- 30 minutes of increase in the daily use of mobile devices is associated with 2.3 times increased risk of speech delay.
- The prevalence of other communication delays, such as the lack of use of gestures and eye gaze, is 8.8%.
8) Excessive screen time deprives children and early adolescents of social interaction.
- 11% to 43% of early teens say they often use their phones to avoid interacting with people physically, especially during the pandemic.
- 33% of them spend more time chatting with their friends online.
- 52% of them sit for long periods of time in silence even when around with their friends because they’re busy with their smartphones.
How Much Screen Time is Too Much for Kids?
1) None at all if they are 0 to 18 months (0 to 1.5 years) old
Infants and early toddlers should have no access to smartphones, tablets, televisions, and other screened devices.
The amount of visual demands from the screen cause stress on babies’ visual systems.
Also, sensory stimulations are harmful to them because they are not able to consciously react to them.
Lastly, they can’t fully understand that objects on the screen are not real.
However, important activities that use the screen, such as video chats with your baby when you are away, are an exemption to the rule.
2) A few minutes a day if they are 18 months (1.5 years) to 2 years old
When they reach the age of 1 year and about 6 months, it is still best if toddlers don’t get exposed to the screen.
But child psychologists confirm that a few minutes of screen time won’t harm them that much as long as they are properly guided.
With this, it’s important to consider both the amount of screen time and the type of content you’re feeding your child with.
As such, it is advisable that you co-view with him. Never hand him the device unattended. This keeps him from possibly mishandling or damaging the device and viewing content not suitable for him.
Speaking of possibly viewing content not suitable for him, it’s important to limit his viewing to quality educational programs such as alphabet and number games.
3) Up to 15 minutes a day if they are 2 to 4 years old
The recommended amount of screen time for children aged 2 to 4 years is almost similar to that of those aged 1 to 2 years—a few minutes a day.
But this time, we get more specific—up to 15 minutes a day.
Given this, psychologists recommended there should still be parental guidance. And the type of content for viewing should be limited to educational programs.
In addition, it is advisable that you let them watch on a larger device as it causes less visual stress than smaller ones like phones do.
4) 30 minutes but not daily if they are 4 to 6 years old
At ages 4 to 6, preschoolers can now listen to music, watch movies, and play simple games. With this, they can handle digital devices quite well.
As such, you can add 15 minutes more to what is advised for those aged 2 to 4. This sums up to 30 minutes of screen time but not on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, parental guidance is required since they are still learning how to read and write well.
5) 1 hour a day if they are 6 to 10 years old
For elementary school children aged 6 to 10 years, experts recommend about 60 minutes or 1 hour of free screen time a day.
Free screen time? Yes. We’re talking about screen time spent for recreation, not for school-related activities.
With this free screen time, however, parental guidance is still advised for kids to maintain healthy viewing, as in the case of preschoolers.
6) 90 minutes (1.5 hours) a day if they are 10 to 12 years old
For children aged 10 to 12 years, experts recommend just adding 30 minutes more to the recommended 60 minutes for kids below this age range.
This sums up to a screen time of 1.5 hours a day or 10.5 hours a week.
Since kids at this age range are on the verge of puberty, they begin exploring things on their own.
Hence, stricter parental guidance is advised to make sure they view only what is suitable for them and follow the recommended amount of screen time.
7) 2 hours a day (14 hours a week) if they are 12 years old and above
At age 12 years and above, kids are now physically mature to handle the screen.
Hence, they can spend more than 1 hour but not exceeding 2 hours of screen time a day. It makes up 14 hours a week.
However, as adolescents naturally become more curious and explorative, parents have to be even more present in guiding them on what they should view.
But there should also be room for some freedom so long as the consequences won’t harm them as they grow into adulthood.
As a Parent, What Can You Do to Limit Your Child’s Screen Time?
1) Make a screen time schedule.
Considering your child’s age, maturity, and behavior, determine how much screen time you’re giving him daily or weekly based on the guidelines we discussed earlier.
Then, find a vacant time of the day where this screen engagement won’t go in conflict with important activities of the day, including family bonding, mealtime, and bedtime.
Based on this, create a daily screen time schedule and implement it on your child.
2) Be with your child, monitoring his screen activities and the amount of time spent.
Source: National Library of Medicine
Be present and engaged when your child is on the screen. Co-view and interact with them.
By doing so, you can check the content he is viewing and monitor the amount of time he consumes. Plus, it strengthens your parent-child bond.
But what if you are busy with office work, house chores, and other things?
Well, going back to the recommended amount of daily screen time per age that we discussed earlier, 2 hours is the longest one.
That isn’t much, is it?
3) Put away or turn off all screened devices when necessary.
Mealtime is an important family gathering. It is a good opportunity to catch up on each other’s life updates while enjoying your food.
As such, gadgets should have no place to disturb your quality time. So, set them aside for a while.
The same is true with bedtime. It is a time for the body to rest from all day’s work and regain strength for the next day.
More especially, the eyes need a break from electromagnetic radiation, which can interfere with your sleep.
Hence, all screened devices must be shut down during this time of rest. And as experts advise, keep them 2 to 3 feet away from your body, especially the head.
4) Encourage your child to engage in activities that don’t involve the screen.
Not all learning and entertainment should come from the screen.
Kids should also enjoy reading books, singing, playing instruments, dancing, playing sports, doing arts, among other offscreen hobbies.
These activities give your child a break from nonphysical confinement, encouraging them to be physically active, explorative, and creative.
5) Be a good example.
It’s not enough that you just set rules for your child to follow.
No matter how systematic, effective, and realistic your screen time plan is, and how well you implement it, it is nothing if you yourself don’t live by it.
Your child follows what you do more than what you say. So, be a good role model.
Let’s Wrap It All Up!
1) On average, children spend 1.5 to 9 hours of screen time a day and up to 18.6 hours a week based on these statistics:
- American children aged 0 to 8 years spend about 1.5 to 4.6 hours of daily screen time.
- Children aged 8 to 12 years spend 4 to 9 hours of daily screen time.
- Children’s daily screen time increased up to more than 7 hours during the pandemic.
- The pandemic also saw an increase in the number of children who spend 4 hours or more of daily screen time.
- In the United States, 18.6 hours of screen-based play dominates children’s weekly activities.
2) Television viewing dominates children’s screen time given these facts:
- On a daily screen time of 4 to 9 hours, television watching dominates children’s activities.
- On a weekly basis, television watching still dominates children’s screen time.
3) Television is the device used by most children during their screen time, as proven by the following:
- Surveyed parents in the United States confirm that television is the device used by most children aged 0 to 2 years.
- Television is also what most children aged 3 to 4 years use.
- The case is similar to that of most children aged 5 to 8 years.
- The case is similar to that of most children aged 9 to 11 years as well.
4) Screen time benefits children in these ways:
- It enhances learning.
- It makes online study and transactions possible.
- It allows for communication and interaction with other people through social media.
- It provides some entertainment.
5) Unfortunately, too much screen time poses the following potential risks:
- Vision problems
- Overweight and obesity
- Type 2 diabetes
- Sleep disorder and deficiency
- Behavioral problems
- Language acquisition and communication delays
- Social deprivation
6) The recommended screen time for kids should be:
- None at all if they are 0 to 18 months (0 to 1.5 years) old
- A few minutes a day if they are 18 months (1.5 years) to 2 years old
- Up to 15 minutes a day if they are 2 to 4 years old
- 30 minutes but not daily if they are 4 to 6 years old
- 1 hour a day if they are 6 to 10 years old
- 90 minutes (1.5 hours) a day if they are 10 to 12 years old
- 2 hours a day (14 hours a week) if they are 12 years old and above
7) To effectively limit your child’s screen time:
- Make a screen time schedule.
- Be with him to monitor his screen activities and time spent.
- Put away or shut down all screened devices when necessary.
- Encourage your child to engage in activities that don’t involve the screen.
- Be a good role model.
Let Us Hear From You!
Is your child spending too much time on the screen?
What have you learned from this article that can possibly help manage this problem?
Share with us in the comments below.